The way Phil Hughes continues to struggle this postseason, the Yankees are really only left with two options in the eighth inning. And neither is too appealing.
They continue to run Hughes out to the mound in the late innings, even though his recent performances do nothing to inspire confidence he can regain his regular-season form.
Or they can go to someone else for the eighth inning. Only problem with that choice is that the other options are far from appealing, as well.
For the record, in the wake of Hughes' struggles - two walks to start the eighth inning in World Series Game 1 last night - the Yankees said he's still their bridge to Mariano Rivera. "We still believe in him," Joe Girardi said.
When pitching coach Dave Eiland was asked if he expects to utilize Hughes the same way going forward, Eiland said, "Sure. Why not? He's had a heck of a lot more good outings than bad. We're not going to throw in the towel with him yet."
But they have to do something, because the guy they have now looks nothing like the dominant reliever they had from June through the end of the regular season.
Hughes did not make himself available for the first 30 minutes after the game, but catcher Jorge Posada said he liked the fact that Hughes was still going after hitters, in his estimation.
"He was battling," Posada said. "That's all you can ask."
Hughes entered the eighth inning with the Yankees down 2-0, and the goal was to keep it that way. But Hughes lost an eight-pitch battle to Jimmy Rollins, walking him, and then walked Shane Victorino on seven pitches.
Hughes clearly was unhappy with plate umpire Gerry Davis' calls, as television cameras caught Hughes yelling at the umpire as he walked back to the dugout after Girardi pulled him.
"He's trying to be too fine," Eiland said. "Instead of attacking, he's just trying to be too fine. It's just a mental thing. You have to attack and trust yourself."
Eiland also did not discount that nerves may be playing a role. "It's his first World Series game," Eiland said. "Hopefully he got the jitters out."
Both of the walks Hughes issued turned into runs, thanks to Raul Ibañez's two-out single off David Robertson later in the inning.
Hughes allowed three runs and nine hits and walked two in 42/3 innings before the game in what has most certainly been an uneven postseason for a pitcher who was so vital to the bullpen's success during the regular season.
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